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The Activation of Environmental Norms: 

An Illustrated Model 

Russell Blarney 

Urban Research Program 
Working Paper No.56 
August 1996 


The Activation of Environmental Norms: 
An Illustrated Model 

Russell Blarney 

Urban Research Program 
Working Paper No.56 
August 1996 


R.C. Coles 
No. 56 EDITOR: 
Penelope Elanley 

Urban Research Program 

ISBN 0 7315 1351 7 Research School of Social Sciences 

ISSN 1035-3828 Australian National University 

Canberra, ACT 0200 


Urban Research Program, Research School of Social Sciences, 
Australian National University 1996 

National Library of Australia 
Cataloguing-in-Publication data: 

Russell K. Blarney 

The activation of environmental norms: an illustrated model. 

ISBN 0 7315 2477 2. 

1. Altruism. 2. Helping behaviour. 3. Helping behaviour - Case studies. 4. 
Environmental protection - Citizen participation - Case studies. I. Australian National 
University. Urban Research Program. II. Title. (Series: Urban Research Program 
working paper; no. 56) 




The Urban Research Program is a part of the reorganised Division of Politics and 
Economics in the Research School of Social Sciences, which came into being in early 
1990. Like its precursor, the Urban Research Unit, which was established in 1966, it 
carries out studies in the social sciences on Australian cities. Work undertaken in the 
Program is multidisciplinary and ranges widely over economic, geographic, historical, 
sociological, and political aspects of urban and regional structure and development, as 
well as more general areas of public policy. 

Working Papers are issued on an occasional basis with the intention of stimulating 
discussion and making research results quickly and easily available. Most papers will 
be published in final form elsewhere. In some cases, material will be published which, 
although of specialist interest, has no ready outlet. 

Working Papers represent the work of members of the Program or papers presented to 
a URP-sponsored seminar or conference. In most cases, the Working Papers are 
Australian in content or relevant to the Australian context. Proposed papers are subject 
to a preliminary internal review of a committee comprising the Series Editor and the 
Head of Program. If the review committee deems a paper suitable for possible 
publication, it is then sent to at least one external assessor for further comment. 

The views expressed in these papers are those of the authors and not the Urban 
Research Program. 

Series Editor: 
Rita C. Coles 



A theoretical model with which to consider the activation of personal norms associated 
with contributions to public goods is presented. The model is based on a well known 
psychological model of helping behaviour, Schwartz ’s norm-activation model. In its 
most basic form, this model holds that the activation of norms of helping is most likely 
when an actor is aware of the positive consequences her helping behaviour would have 
for an object in need, and ascribes responsibility to herself for helping. The paper 
considers how the Schwartz model can be extended to encompass situations where 
individuals have the opportunity to cooperate with others, and contribute to the 
provision of public goods. Particular attention is given to environmental goods. 

A review of literature in political economy and psychology suggests that the translation 
of Schwartz’s model from situations of isolated individual helping to the public goods 
context requires the role of organisations, policy initiatives and notions of justice to be 
explicitly incorporated within the model. Existing elements of Schwartz’s model also 
need to be broadened to encompass some of the unique characteristics of public good 
contributions, such as shared responsibility, and lower levels of individual 
decisiveness. The key beliefs driving the model are illustrated in the context of 
individual reactions to a questionnaire in which they are asked if they are prepared to 
make a $50 contribution to help preserve the Australian Coorong in its current state. 
Qualitative data was obtained from 9 focus groups. 



The author would like to thank Val Braithwaite and Trevor Sutton of the Urban 
Research Program for their useful input to this paper, and also Brad Jorgensen 
(CSIRO Water Resources, Western Australia). The focus groups reported in this study 
are part of a larger study being undertaken with Jeff Bennett and Mark Morrison 
(ADFA) for the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Mark 
Morrison moderated three of the focus groups, and was involved in interpreting the 
results. Several other individuals offered comments on selected aspects of the paper. 


The Activation of Environmental Norms: 
An Illustrated Model 

Russel! Blarney 
Urban Research Program 
Research School of Social Sciences 
Australian National University 

1. Introduction 

Most ol us have at some time witnessed situations where individuals fail to 
stop and help a person in need, when it would appear that they could easily 
have done so. Similarly, individuals will sometimes make voluntary 
donations to good causes, and at other times they will not. Some individuals 
will recycle household papers, plastics and glass, whilst others do not, and 
some will bum rubbish in their backyard without any apparent 
consideration of the negative impacts such action may have on neighbours. 
And whilst some people comply with tax regulations, others attempt to free- 
ride on the system. The question that this paper addresses is how 
individuals decide whether or not to contribute time, money or other 
resources to such social causes. 

This paper presents a theoretical model with which to explain and 
potentially predict the activation of personal norms associated with 
contributions to the public good!. The model is based on a well known 
psychological model of helping behaviour, Schwartz’s norm-activation 
model. In its most basic form, this model holds that the activation of norms 
of helping is most likely when an actor is aware of the positive 
consequences her helping behaviour would have for an object in need, and 
ascribes responsibility to herself for helping. 

Although this model was developed mainly for the purpose of explaining 
altruistically motivated helping, for example, helping single individuals in 
distress, Schwartz and Howard (1982, p347) acknowledge that "certain 
aspects of the model might be suitable to a theory of cooperation ’. Where 
helping relationships involve unilateral dependence of people in need on 
potential helpees, cooperation involves joint behaviour directed toward a 
common interest (Schwartz and Howard, 1982). This paper considers how 
the basic principles of the norm-activation model can be extended to 
encompass situations where individuals have the opportunity to cooperate 
with others, and contribute to the provision of public goods. The paper is 
concerned with questions of both benevolence and compliance. 

lWith the exception of a selective discussion of policy implications in the final 
section, this paper is concerned with normative questions only to the extent 
that factors influencing the activation of individual norms are considered. 

Particular attention is given to public environmental goods. Environmental 
applications of the norm-activation model date at least to Heberlein (1972), 
who was concerned with explaining widespread changes in environmental 
attitudes and the rise of what has been referred to as the ‘environmental 
ethic’. Van Liere and Dunlap (1978) applied the model to yard-burning 
behaviour, Black et al (1985) used it in attempting to explain two major 
consumer responses to the energy situation (efficiency improvements and 
curtailment), and Hopper and Nielson (1991) used it to test the hypothesis 
that recycling behaviour can be considered altruistic^. Rather than using 
the norm-activation model to predict actual behaviour, Stem et al (1986, 
p205) used the model to help explain judgements and intended actions 
regarding hazardous chemical problems. 

An interesting feature of these studies is that they do not explicitly address 
the cooperative nature of human behaviour as it occurs in regard to 
environmental goods. The studies do not, for example, consider 
consequences of action, and responsibility for action, in the context of 
collective action and free-riding incentives, but rather limit their concern to 
cases involving isolated individual behaviour. One might expect, however, 
that individual 'recycling norms' are more likely to be activated when it is 
perceived that others are recycling. Similarly, individuals may decide not 
to recycle, because they object to the manner in which government made the 
request. There is a clear need to assess the potential for incorporating these 
and other factors within Schwartz’s model, with a view to developing a 
more encompassing model of norm-activation, that can be applied to 
situations involving contributions to public goods. 

The paper is organised as follows. An overview of what will be referred to 
as ‘Schwartz’s model’ is provided in Section 2. The extension of this model 
to the case of public good contributions is considered in Section 3. A 
review of relevant literature in political economy and psychology suggests 

Another common way of modelling decisions regarding environmental and 
other behaviour is to use Ajzen s (1991) Theory of Planned Behaviour, which 
developed out of Ajzen and Fishbein's Theory of Reasoned Action. These models 
are less focussed on the process by which individuals decide to take a certain 
course of action, being primarily concerned with identification of cognitive 
and normative beliefs that influence behavioural intention. The theory is not 
specific to altruistic or cooperative behaviour, and as such, does not specify the 
likely objects of the key beliefs. Environmental applications include Lynne et 
al (1995), Kantola et al (1982), and Shimp and Kavas (1984). 


that the translation of Schwartz’s model from situations of isolated 
individual helping to the public goods context requires the role of 
organisations, policy initiatives and notions of justice to be explicitly 
incorporated within the model. Existing elements of Schwartz’s model also 
need to be broadened to encompass some of the unique characteristics of 
public good contributions, such as shared responsibility, and lower levels of 
individual decisiveness. The key beliefs driving the model are then 
illustrated in Section 4, in the context of individual reactions to a 
questionnaire in which they are asked if they are prepared to make a $50 
contribution to help preserve the Australian Coorong in its current state. 
This section draws heavily on qualitative research data obtained from 9 
focus groups. Some of the main findings are discussed briefly in Section 5. 

2. Schwartz’s Model of Norm-Activation 

Arguably the most notable attempt to identify the conditions under which 
norms of altruism influence helping behaviour is that of Schwartz (1977) 
and Schwartz and Howard (1981, 1982). As noted above, the model holds 
that the activation of norms of helping is most likely when actors are aware 
that a person is in need, that their action could have positive consequences 
for this person, and they feel responsible for acting. The three key 
components of the model may thus be defined as awareness of need, AN, 
awareness of consequences, AC, and awareness of responsibility, AR\ 
Following, Hopper and Nielsen (1991), it is assumed here that AN, AC and 
AR moderate the influence of personal norms on behaviour*. 

^Schwartz (1977) suggests that AR will tend to be used as a defense mechanism, 
and hence may better be referred to as responsibility denial, RD. The use of AR 
here does not deny that AR will often involve denial. A further point is that 
applications of the model vary in the extent to which they treat AR and AC as a 
trait-like characteristic in the manner originally postulated by Schwartz 
(1968, 1977). Although values and personal traits clearly have an important 
bearing on how individuals define AN, AC and AR, they are not viewed as 
personal tendencies' in this paper. 

4jhis can be contrasted with the approach of Stern et al (1985-86). where AC 
and AR are treated as antecedent to the activation of personal norms. There 
would appear to be two ways of resolving the apparent contradiction. First, it 
can be argued that relevant personal norms will often exist prior to exposure to 
the object in need, and that AC and AR play a crucial role in establishing 
whether these norms are in fact activated in a given situation. Second, 
individuals could be seen to have personal norms of varying specificity. Thus, 

the personal norm T should do my bit to help the environment may, 
depending on AC and AR, develop into the more specific norm T should recycle 
paper and glass’. The latter norm is more object-specific, and is only created 


Personal norms provide “the link between general internalised values and 
specific self-expectations in concrete situations...[I]t is assumed that when 
people face behavioural choices, their value systems are activated. That is, 
they weigh the implications of the available action alternatives for that set of 
internalised values which they perceive as relevant. This cognitive process 
of comparison and evaluation (which way occur either with or without self- 
conscious awareness) results in the generation of personal norms, feelings 
of moral obligation to perform or refrain from specific actions”(Schwartz 
and Howard,1981, pl91) 5 . In contrast, a social norm may be defined as a 
“pattern of behaviour that occurs so often within a particular society that it 
comes to be accepted as reflective of that society and taken as sanctioned by 
the members of that society” (Reber, 1985, p708). 

An important feature of Schwartz’s model concerns the process by which 
various manifestations of AC and AR are brought together to mediate the 
influence of values on helping behaviour. This process, outlined initially by 
Schwartz (1977), and refined by Schwartz and Howard (1981, 1982), is 
held to involve the 5 sequential stages illustrated in Figure 1. Consider each 
in turn. 

7. Attention 

The first stage itself involves three sequential steps. The individual must 
first notice that a person, or in the more general spirit of this paper, an 
object (or even society), is in need (step la). Situational factors influence 
the salience and clarity of need, and hence awareness of need, and perceived 
seriousness of need. Individuals become aware of the consequences of 
inaction for the object in need. If individuals satisfy this requirement, they 
proceed to the next step (step lb) in which actions are identified that could 
help the object. Once these potential actions are recognised, individuals 
must then recognise a personal ability to engage in one or more of these 

when the individual is exposed to a situation in which AC and AR, specific to 
recycling, are sufficiently high. 

5A value is “an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of 
existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode 
of conduct or end-state of existence. A value system is an enduring 
organization of beliefs concerning preferable modes of conduct or end-states 
of existence along a continuum of relative importance” (Rokeach, 1973, p6). 


actions, it they are to proceed to step 2 rather that dropping out with 
inaction. Only if all 3 requirements are satisfied do individuals move to the 
second step, where values are activated, generating feelings of obligation. 

2. Consequences of Action for Self (Generation of feelings of obligation) 
Having perceived an object's need and become aware that they could help, 
individuals then consider the implications of their possible actions. Three 
types of implications may be distinguished: (i) physical, material and 
psychological implications that follow directly from the action; (ii) 
implications for the actors held values; and (iii) social implications. 
Although all three forms can be involved in the generation of feelings of 
personal obligation, only a subset of these are moral in nature. 

The first category might involve risk of injury and/or trauma, and/or any 
monetary or time costs that are expected to be incurred. With respect to the 
second category, held values are activated to the extent that they are 
relevant to those actions for which the individual considers herself able. 

The actor “asks herself whether she is morally responsible for these actions 
in this situation, given her own general internalised values...The more 
central to one’s self-evaluation the values implicated by the action, the 
stronger the emotional arousal. Anticipated compliance elicits feelings of 
self-satisfaction and anticipated inaction elicits feelings of self-deprecation. 
Thus the sanctions attached to personal norms are based in the self-concept" 
(Schwartz and Howard, 1981, pi99). This self-satisfaction is sometimes 
referred to as warm glow, or moral satisfaction (Kahneman and Knetsch, 

Social implications involve outcomes that depend on the reactions of others. 
The actor assesses how the action would comply with socially accepted 
standards of behaviour. Many different reference groups may be involved, 
from society at large, to single individuals (such as a person requesting a 
donation). This step has a major bearing on the responsibility the individual 
ascribes to herself for action. 


Figure 1: Process Model Of Norm-Activation (Schwartz and Howard, 1982) 


3. Anticipatory Evaluation 

Once individuals have identified the types of costs and benefits that apply to 
a given action, they must then evaluate them to see whether or not action is 
justified. The salience of specific costs and benefits can be highly 
influenced by situational cues. Conservation groups showing pictures of 
dead birds may cause potential donors to attach higher weight to some of 
the benefits associated with helping to save birds, than simply stating that 
birds are being killed. The anticipated magnitude of costs and benefits will 
also depend critically on “the centrality of the values implicated in a 
behaviour for the person's overall self-evaluation. The impact of a personal 
norm on behaviour is stronger for people whose self-evaluation is closely 
tied to the values from which the personal norm is constructed'^ Schwartz 
and Howard, 1981, p202). An individual whose self-image is strongly 
associated with green values is likely to respond more positively to a request 
to help whales than a person with strongly pro-development values. Both 
individuals are likely to likely to pass through the evaluation stage more 
quickly than others with more evenly balanced value-orientations. While 
the latter may need to assess the specific costs and benefits in some detail 
before making a decision, the former may employ rules of thumb, or 
decision heuristics, which in the absence of significant value-incongruent 
stimuli, may lead to unconscious, and prompt, decisions. Evaluations by 
highly committed ideologues, or Kantians, are assumed to be consistent with 
the model to the extent that moral costs can outweigh other costs at the 
evaluation stage. It is not assumed that all individuals necessarily make 
evaluations in accordance with assumptions of motivational 
commensurability and continuity. Blarney and Common (1994) discuss the 
literature on ‘ethical preferences’ in the environment context. 

If the output of individuals’ evaluations indicate a clear-cut decision of 
action or inaction, the recommendation is final and individuals behave 
accordingly. If however, the costs and benefits of helping are quite 
balanced, and the outcomes of helping are non-trivial, individuals 
experience conflict or dissonance, which they are then driven to reduce by 
delaying the decision and re-examining the situation. This is step 4. 

4. Defence. 

In order to defend themselves against sustained conflict, or dissonance, 
individuals redefine the situation, in such a way that conflict is reduced. 


This tends to involve altering key perceptions that have a bearing on the 
conditions previously encountered in the first two stages of the model. 
Individuals may employ four different types of denial in order to neutralize 
feelings of obligation: denial of need; denial of effective action; denial of 
ability; and denial of responsibility. 

Denial of need involves defensively re examining the situation to find cues 
that permit denial of need, or reduction in perceived need severity. 
Importantly, “[a]mbiguity of need cues and individual insensitivity to such 
cues enhance the probability of effective denial”(Schwartz and Howard, 
1981, p202). If an individual comes across a person lying on the footpath, 
he or she may thus decide that the person is ‘simply drunk’, thereby 
reducing the conflict associated with inaction. Similarly, if it is not clear to 
an individual whether 200 birds or 200000 birds are in need of help, the 
individual may assume it is 200 in order to permit a conflict free decision- 
not to donate to the cause. Denial of effective action involves the perception 
that the action in question would not be effective in helping the object in 
need. Individuals may not call the police if they believe that they would 
arrive too late. Similarly, individuals may believe that a donation to a given 
charity would not be used effectively. This can be contrasted with denial of 
personal ability , where individuals may be carrying no money when 
approached by a charity representative. 

Individuals may also think that circumstances are such that the perceived 
personal and social norms do not apply to them. A range of person and 
situation variables may lead to this denial of responsibility. A man may 
deny responsibility for helping a woman in distress, by convincing himself 
that he has other overriding obligations, or that helping women in distress is 
the responsibility of other women, or perhaps the police force. People are 

more likely to feel responsible for helping if they unintentionally caused the 
state of the helpee. 

Once the process of defence is complete, the individual re-evaluates the 
costs and benefits, and exits the system through action or inaction, unless 
costs and benefits remain evenly balanced. In the event that such a balance 
still remains, the individual enters another defence cycle, and continues until 
a decision is made. The individual will often be constrained by time, 
however, as in the case of emergencies. In such cases, the passage of time 


may increase perceived severity of need, and anticipated moral costs 
associated with inaction, permitting a decision to be made. Alternatively, 
the need may be attended to through some other means, for example, by 
another bystander. The fifth stage is behaviour , which takes the form of 
action or inaction. Although individuals may enter subsequent defensive 
cycles, for example, rationalising their behaviour and removing the guilt 
associated with inaction, such processes are not considered here. Suffice it 
to say that conscious or subconscious knowledge by individuals of this 
option may lead them to anticipate lower moral costs at the second stage of 
the model, than would otherwise be the case. 

3. Norm-Activation and Public Goods 

Of the three examples given in the opening paragraph to this paper, the first 
corresponds to a unilateral dependence relationship: a single person can 
potentially provide all the help that another requires. The other examples 
illustrate that many other forms of prosocial behaviour exist that have 
important implications for society, including those involving contributions 
to public goods. Ideally, the norm-activation model would encompass these. 
A key feature of public goods is of course non-excludability: those who 
provide the good are unable to prevent others from consuming it^. Once 
provided, these goods can thus be enjoyed by anyone, irrespective of 
whether they helped provide them. A temptation thus exists for individuals 
t o free-ride and let others contribute. From the perspective of an object in 
need, the key question is not whether any one individual will contribute, but 
whether enough individuals will contribute rather than free-ride. In 
contrast to the problems generally considered by Schwartz, some form of 
collective action is required^. This situation of shared responsibility ; is 
distinct from that of diffused responsibility. Where the former refers to 
situations where the total contribution is to be shared among members of a 
collective, the latter refers to situations where a single individual is 
potentially quite capable of making the entire contribution alone, but the 

6 Public goods also exhibit the property of non-rivalness in consumption, 
meaning that one person’s consumption of the good does not reduce the amount 
of the good available for consumption by others. Collective goods are defined as 
goods for which non-excludability alone holds (Pearce, 1983). 

"7 a collective-action problem exists when each individual derives greater 
benefits from universal cooperation than universal noncooperation, but 
greatest private benefit is obtained from noncooperation. irrespecti\e ot uhut 
others do (Elster 1985, drawing on Schelling). 


presence of other individuals means that it is not clear who will actually 
make the contribution (Latane, 1981). 

The fact that contributions from other individuals are typically required to 
produce public goods means that one individual may not have a decisive 
influence on the provision of such goods. Two further distinctions arise 
here. The first is between divisible and non-divisible goods. An example 
of a contribution to a divisible good is the use of environmentally friendly 
detergents. Each individual who uses such detergents provides a small, but 
decisive, increment in public water quality. If many others do likewise, a 
larger increment results. This situation can be contrast to that of less 
divisible, or step goods, such as the purchase of threatened native forests, 
where the good is only provided at all (or at a sufficiently high level to be 
worthwhile) when contributions reach a threshold level (Levi, 1993). In 
this case, an individual's contribution may turn out to have little or no 
consequences for provision of the good. The second distinction involves the 
nature of the contribution. Contributions to processes of social decision¬ 
making and choice are distinct from direct financial or other contributions 
to help obtain a good. An individual may vote in favour of an 
environmental project, which if implemented would have to be paid for by 
all taxpayers, irrespective of who voted in favour of it. In contrast to direct 
donations to step goods, where individuals are decisive with respect to 
donations, but not provision of the good, voters are not decisive with 
respect to any outcome. The question of decisiveness can have important 
implications for how one perceives the consequences of her behaviour for 
the object(s) in need, and how costs and benefits are evaluated. It is 
intended that the model presented in this paper be applicable to all forms of 
environmental contribution. 

The key characteristic that distinguishes contributions toward public goods 
from the helping situations most commonly considered by Schwartz is thus 
the need for collective action, and hence either cooperation or coercion. 
Concern in this paper lies mainly with voluntary cooperation, and 
regulatory compliance. The degree to which individuals voluntarily 
cooperate under different conditions has long been a popular research topic 
in the social sciences. Hobbes, for example, argued that in the absence of 
government, or what he referred to as the state of nature, individual 
preferences will be dominated by narrow self-interest and negative 
altruism. The basic principles of the collective action problem are seen in 


the prisoner’s dilemma (PD) game in game theory (Hardin, 1971). Since 
the original formulation of the PD game, a great deal of game theoretic 
research has tocussed on identifying the conditions under which cooperative 
outcomes occur in various circumstances. Individuals are seen to have 
contingent strategies or preferences, cooperation being contingent on 
certain aspects of the choice-situation. As an example, cooperation has been 
found to be more likely when it is perceived that the good will only be 
provided if every member of the collective contributes (the all or nothing 
good). Although uncommon in large groups, the appeal of such an 
arrangement stems from the fact that each individual remains decisive. 

3.1 Positive Evaluation of Good, and Ability to Help Provide It 
In a similar vein to Schwartz’s stage 1, researchers in the area of collective 
action have found that cooperation is more likely when it is perceived that 
collective action would have a desirable outcome. Levi (1993) refers to this 
as positive evaluation of the good. No-one wants to contribute to a lost or 
bad cause. Individuals may sometimes wonder whether a request for 
contributions is genuine, or based on an accurate assessment of the situation 
(step la). Others may be hesitant to help because of anticipated negative 
consequences of their action; for example, protesting may achieve little 
other than spiteful retribution from higher authority (step lb). In a similar 
vein to Schwartz, Chong (1991, pi 1) notes that in contrast to situations 
where individuals question the need or desirability of a given course of 
collective action, “there will be strong incentives for individuals to 
participate when collective action is carefully planned and executed and has 
the power to improve the lot of the group. Moral prescriptions will now 
hold more sway over the individual, since there is now a reason to do one's 
duty; and psychological incentives will also increase...” Chong would thus 
agree that Schwartz’s stage 1 is an important antecedent to stage 2. 

Schwartz and Howard (1982, p349) argue that non-cooperation is most 
often defended through denial of the possibility of effective action, and 
denial of responsibility. Individuals may thus rationalise that what they do 
will have little effect on the social problem at hand, or that they should not 
have to contribute if others do not. Chong (1991, p94) appears to recognise 
the relationship between ambiguity in information and defence when stating 
that “because of the inherent ambiguity surrounding political activism, less 
scrupulous individuals can conjure up numerous reasons or arguments for 


why they are justified in not getting involved”. Psychologists have long 
recognised that ambiguity often results in the inhibition of altruism 
(Hewstone et al, 1988). In the context of government regulations, however, 
we might expect that ambiguity often results in greater risk-averse 
compliance, particularly as the stakes (approximate costs of non- 
compliance) increase. 

3.2 Contributions by Others 

Studies have also shown that cooperation is more likely when several 
iterations of a game are involved. Individuals then anticipate future 
material gains from cooperation; for example by establishing a reputation 
for cooperation which they expect to prove beneficial in subsequent games 
(eg. tit for tat strategies in simple two-person games). Cooperation is more 
likely when the actions of others is easily monitored, which tends to be most 
likely when small groups of individuals are involved. Hardin (1982) shows 
how iterated PD games can produce coordinated equilibrium in which a 
switch of strategy by any one player will not make anyone better off. 

Hardin goes on to argue that subject to conditions involving knowledge and 
negative sanctions for defectors, such equilibria may arise through 
convention. The convention represents an implicit contract concerning how 
individuals might get along together. Conventions can be associated with 
norms of fairness. 

Chong argues that when social and psychological incentives are operative, 
the dilemma facing individuals may be more accurately seen as an assurance 
game than a PD. Individuals who are prepared to contribute their share to 
the collective good are prepared to do so only if they can be assured that 
enough others will do likewise. Importantly, a threshold number of 
unconditional cooperators, for example Kantians, may be required before 
we can expect the emergence of conditional, or contingent, cooperators 
(Chong, 1991, Elster, 1985). 

The need for assurance that enough others will contribute is associated with 
notions of fairness, particularly those pertaining to shared responsibility. 
Klosko’s (1987, p358) advances a fairness thesis along these lines. Song and 
Yarbrough (1978) found that individuals are more likely to comply with tax 
laws if they believe that most other people comply (see also Scholz and 
Pinney, 1995). The notion of shared responsibility appears to receive 


widespread public support with respect to funding of environmental goods 
(Harris and Brown, 1992, Blarney and Common, 1996). 

3.3 Selective Incentives 

Co-operation can also be facilitated by selective incentives; or incentives 
that exclude those who do not contribute (Chong, 1991). Various types of 
selective incentives have been postulated, and in general, these accord with 
findings in psychology, and the assumptions of Schwartz’s norm-activation 
model (particularly stage 2). Chong defines psychological incentives to 
include anticipated internal rewards from participating. These commonly 
take the form of expressive benefits, so called because “its importance to the 
actor is in expressing support for the cause, regardless of whether it 
produces the desired visible consequences” (Turner, 1981, pi 1 cited in 
Chong, 1991, p74). To “refuse to contribute to a cause may cast doubt on 
one’s character, reliability, and dependability. If a person fancies himself as 
an advocate of such values as freedom, equality, peace and justice, then 
active involvement in collective efforts aimed at furthering those ends is the 
most effective way to prove such convictions” (Chong, 1991, p9). 

Hardin (1982) sees participatory goals, motivated by the desire for self- 
realisation and self-development, as a special class of ‘extrarational' 
motivation. Psychological benefits may involve needs such as stimulation 
and/or novelty, and hence anticipated enjoyment, excitement and/or feelings 
of competence associated with participation (White, 1959)°. Hirschman 
(1982) argues that standard economic frameworks for considering 
collective action need to be modified to reflect utility that individuals gain 
from the process of achieving their goals: “the implication of the confusion 
between striving and attaining is that the distinction between costs and 
benefits of action in the public interest vanishes, since striving, which 
should be entered on the cost side, turns out to be part of the benefit'' (p85- 
6). These incentives fall within the first and second categories of 
Schwartz’s 2nd stage, outlined earlier. In cases where contributions take the 
form of votes or other individual preferences pertaining to social choice, 
low levels of perceived decisiveness with respect to the outcomes at stake, 
can cause individuals to discount outcomes at the evaluation stage, in favour 

8 Psychological costs can similarly apply. For example, an individual may feel 
physically ill upon witnessing the injuries incurred by parties involved in a 
traffic accident. 


of more expressive and/or social considerations. Brennan and Lomasky 
(1993) consider the implications of such behaviour for electoral outcomes. 
Blarney (1996) considers the implications in the context of contingent 
valuation surveys (see Mitchell and Carson, 1989). 

Another type of psychological incentive involves the satisfaction one 
anticipates from the influence her behaviour has on others. Individuals may 
be aware that if they recycle, or purchase green products, others may 
follow in their footsteps. Note that this both increases the consequences of 
one's action for the object(s) in need, and brings internal feelings of 
satisfaction. This process is effectively Chong's social incentive in reverse. 

Social incentives involve anticipated non-material social rewards; for 
example, avoiding ostracism, or making friends by establishing a favourable 
reputation. This type of incentive corresponds to Schwartz’s social 
implications, in stage 2 of his model. Selective material incentives may also 
apply in some circumstances. Accreditation of tourism operators that 
conform to prescribed environmental standards can be used to advantage in 
product labelling, making compliance, and more generally self-regulation, 
more incentive compatible. 

3.4 Organisations , Policy Initiatives, and Procedures 
A characteristic of cooperative collective action is the frequent need for 
organisations, and policy initiatives, with which to coordinate, and act on, 
the contributions of members of the collective. To quote Olsen (1965, 

...It is of the essence of an organisation that it provides an inseparable, 
generalized benefit. It follows that the provision of public or collective 
goods is the fundamental function of organizations generally. A state is 
first of all an organisation that provides public goods for its members, 
the citizens; and other types of organisations similarly provide collective 
goods for their members. 

Organisations are closely linked to institutions. The latter are “organized 
patterns of socially constructed norms and roles, and socially prescribed 
behaviours expected of occupants of those roles, which are created and 
recreated over time” (Goodin, 1996, p 19). The purpose of institutional 
design and reform is largely to “alter or coordinate human behaviour” with 


a view to etticiency improvements, particularly the minimisation of 
transaction costs (Levi, 1993, pi3). 

Having an incentive to cooperate, and being assured that others will 
contribute, is not a sufticient condition for contributing toward the 
provision ot public goods. Individuals may need to be assured that other 
parties, or organisations, involved in the ‘policy bargain’ are doing their 
bit, and/or that this is done in accordance with certain standards of fairness. 

The most obvious organisation with which individuals are likely to concern 
themselves when contemplating some form of pro-environmental behaviour 
is government. Government can be involved in collective action in several 
ways. First, it may have caused the problem for which help is needed. 
Second, it may have identified the problem, and the possible courses of 
action that could alleviate the problem. Third, it may be involved in 
coordinating the individual actions of each member of the collective; for 
example, by agreeing to hold a referendum, set up a trust fund, or conduct 
information campaigns. Fourth, government may be involved in 
coordination and implementation of the outcomes of collective action. Once 
sufficient donations are obtained, it may be government researchers and 
workers that undertake the remedial works. 

This list is not exhaustive. Government can also implement and enforce 
various regulations that facilitate cooperation, or compliance. It may decide 
that collective action on the part of the public is not needed, and provide the 
good itself, through existing government revenues and resources. It may 
also undertake separate studies, for example, to gauge the degree of public 
concern about the problem at issue. In short, government plays a key role 
in the provision of public goods. When contributions are sought from a 
collective, trust in government can be expected to play a major role in 
influencing individual decisions. Levi (1993) notes that trust in government 
requires that individuals not feel that they are ‘being suckered', and/or that 
their contributions will be wasted. Levi (p21) observes the difficulties 
government can have in engendering trust in the community: Too little 
information undermines contidence that promises are being kept. Too 
much information may suggest that the norm of fairness is not in fact being 
upheld”. Putnam (1993) sees trust as a form of social capital. A feature ot 
trust is that it can take years to build, but can be reduced to ashes by a single 


instance of untrustworthy behaviour. Trust in government commonly 
pertains to government’s role in either revenue collection or expenditure. 

The various levels and agents of government are of course not the only 
organisations that can be involved in collective action. Industry bodies, for 
example, will often play an important role. In the context of green taxes, 
industry may be held responsible for the environmental problems in 
question, and questions of trust may arise in relation to whether industry 
will hold to its part of the policy bargain. Alternatively, policy initiatives 
that do not involve industry commitments may be rejected on the basis that 
they are unfair. Research organisations can also be the object of distrust. 
Trust in scientists may be questioned if the magnitude of an environmental 
problem is perceived to be overstated, or the expected effectiveness of 
proposed interventions, dubious. In general, there can be as many objects 
of trustworthiness as there are parties with implicit or explicit 
commitments in the policy bargain or initiative. Similarly, there can be as 
many notions of trust as their are commitments (implicit or explicit ) 
involved in the policy bargain. To illustrate the latter, consider a policy 
initiative in which government is considering the introduction of a once-off 
tax to help fund an important environmental intervention, and citizens are 
required to vote on the proposal. Some possible notions of trust that may 
influence voter behaviour include: trust that scientists have not overstated 
the magnitude of the environmental problem in question; trust that scientists 
and government have not overstated the usefulness of the intervention in 
rectifying the problem; trust that government will ensure that all individuals 
who are required to pay the tax, do so; trust that government will earmark 
funds to the project in question; and trust that government will stick to its 
commitment of a once-off tax. In the event that industry is also required to 
bear some of the costs of the intervention, trust in industry to contribute its 
fair share can also be expected to have an influence on voters. 

Importantly, Schwartz s treatment of norm-activation contains virtually no 
discussion of the role of government or industry. This is largely a 
consequence of the unilateral dependence relationships with which he is 
most concerned, where organisations play little or no direct role. Although 
Schwartz and Howard (1982) make reference to principles of equity and 
trust ’ t0 ° ^cks specific reference to organisations such as government. 
Interestingly, however, several hints of procedural concerns can be found in 


their writings, most notably under the category of boomerang effects , 
which were created in order to explain the observation of some anomalous 

Boomerang effects occur when the ‘presence of factors presumed most 
conducive to activating norms favouring helping’ actually result in 
decreased rates of helping. Schwartz and Howard (1981) identify three 
related lorms of boomerang effect. First, the individual may perceive that 
the framing of an appeal involves excessive statements of need, thereby 
raising suspicions concerning the motive of the person in need (ie mistrust), 
and/or the true severity of the need. Related to this is the second 
explanation, which holds that perceived manipulativeness in an appeal may 
result in ‘reactance, stimulating a need to retain behavioural freedom by 
resisting the pressure to help’(Schwartz and Howard, 1981, p208). 
According to the theory of psychological reactance developed by Brehm 
and Brehm (1981), individuals respond to threats or losses to specific 
freedoms by either (i) resisting or acting counter to the attempted social 
influence, or (ii) declaring themselves helpless, and removing the freedom 
in question. In a study of motivational postures of regulatees, Braithwaite 
et al (1994, p388) found that two postures were “blatantly antagonistic to 
the regulatory regime, one pleading helplessness (disengagement), the other 
offence at government intrusion and lack of funds (resistance)". By 
contrast, a third posture (managerial accommodation) involved acceptance 
by regulatees that the law has to be obeyed and that every effort should be 
made to comply, and a fourth posture (capture), “represented identification 
with the regulators and the attitude that ‘we are all on the one team 

The third type of boomerang effect identified by Schwartz and Howard 
(1981) involves the undermining of internalised benefits by external 
sanctions. Imagine an individual who is motivated by the anticipation ol 
warm glow, to volunteer 2 hours work per week at the local charity. 
Suppose, that the charity then decided to renumerate all workers at the rate 
of $10 per hour. The external reward may reduce the likelihood of work 
because it is now less clear that the individual is acting purely out of the 
goodness of her own heart. 


Although references to characteristics such as ‘perceived manipulativeness’ 
of an appeal fall within the realm of procedural concerns and notions of 
fairness, Schwartz’s discussion of procedural considerations appears to be 
limited to the way in which the helpee makes her requests. Procedures 
adopted by third party intermediaries receive little if any explicit attention. 
Despite the lack of reference to third parties, Schwartz and Howard (1982) 
do identify some of the key contingencies of cooperation. They observe, 
for example, that findings “regarding trust are particularly important to 
clarify the reasons for boomerang effects in helping. Trust may also play a 
central role in the definition of the parameters of need and of the costs and 
benefits of helping” (p351). Braithwaite et al (1994) concluded that both 
social bonds and shared understandings of goals between regulators and 
regulatees held the key to understanding regulatory compliance. Treating 
regulatees with trust, regard and respect can contribute to the “emergence 
of shared understandings and goodwill, and these, in turn, translate into 
cooperation and compliance” (Braithwaite, 1996, p7). Makkai and 
Braithwaite (1994), for example, found that praising regulatees may 
improve compliance, and Braithwaite and Makkai (1994) found that treating 
regulatees as trustworthy had a similar effect. 

Tyler (1990) recognises the role of organisations with respect to 
cooperation, arguing that individuals evaluate political and legal authorities 
against criteria of distributive and procedural fairness, and that the 
perceived legitimacy of these authorities then affects how individuals 
respond to their demands. Subjective distributive justice is concerned with 
perceptions regarding the fair allocation of scarce resources, and is hence 
concerned with outcomes. In the tradition of Adam’s (1965) equity theory, 
some individuals will favour situations in which outcomes are proportional 
to inputs. Some others might follow more in the tradition of Homans 
(1961), adopting norms of equality whereby situations are favoured if they 
involve equal share amongst all. Others might adopt norms of needs-based 
allocation^. Subjective procedural justice is concerned with the perceived 
fairness of procedures with which decisions are made (see Lind and Tyler. 
1988, Mellers and Baron, 1993). Individuals may, for example, evaluate 
government decisions more positively when they perceive that the public 
has had the opportunity to participate in the decision, when the decision- 

9 Wenz (1988) discusses principles of distributive justice in 

the environment 



PN — 

(personal norm) 



k k k 

AR(self) AC(self) - API 

Figure 2: Extended Norm-Activation Model 

making process is perceived to have been neutral or unbiased, and when 
they have been treated with dignity and respect by the government and its 

An important question is whether organisations and associated principles of 
justice have an influence on norm-activation that is independent of AR and 
AC. Although many perceptions regarding organisations, institutions and 
policy initiatives clearly have a direct bearing on AC and AR, it is not clear 
that this applies to all such perceptions, particularly those relating to 
questions of justice. An individual might ascribe responsibility to herself, 
and accept that her contribution will have the required consequences, but 
object to the responsibilities of others implicit in the policy proposal. 
Alternatively, the individual may object to the manner in which a request is 
made. A third broad category of moderating effect, which is labelled here 
as acceptance of policy initiatives, API , is needed. API refers to the extent 
to which AR and AC are implemented in a way that does not cause the 
individual to react or protest. Such protests will generally result in 
inaction. It is intended that API include implementation considerations 
where no formal policy initiative exists, as is often the case when voluntary' 
contributions are sought. Figure 2 summarises some of the main 
relationships expected among AR, AC and API. The precise relations 
among different manifestations of these constructs will clearly vary with the 
context of application. AR(self), AC(self) and API all have direct 
moderating effects on the norm-behaviour relationship. Note that notions 
of trust can influence norm-activation in several ways. 

3.5 Summary of Required Extensions to Schwartz s Model 
Table 1 summarises the main extensions to Schwartz’s model that are 
required when considering norm-activation in the context of contributions 
to public goods. Figure 3 illustrates the extended process-model. Consider 
each row of Table 1 in turn. 

Awareness of Need : Although the original model of Schwartz (1977) was 
developed with human helpees in mind, the same principles can be expected 
to apply to non-human helpees, such as endangered species. In contrast to 
the unilateral helping relationships considered by Schwartz, where 
responsibility is often clearly and narrowly defined, and the helper is able 
to directly alleviate the need of the helper, responsibilities in the public 


good case are often less well defined, and direct action is often not possible, 
or practicable. When considered in conjunction with the great many 
environmental and other good causes to which individuals can contribute, it 
is apparent that norm-activation in the public goods case may occur with a 
greater level of indifference, being prone to greater influence by situational 
cues, and greater use of decision heuristics. Individuals are likely to 
consider substitute causes, and the relative need or importance of difference 
causes. Further, alleviating environmental needs often involves opportunity 
costs. Individuals who believes that the forest should be logged to provide 
economic benefits are likely to refuse to donate to ‘save the forests’ funds. 
Although such individuals will sometimes drop out of the model at the 
attention stage, experiencing no feelings of guilt, they will often move on to 
the next stage, where they may feel a need to express their pro-development 
values. In cases where provision of a public good requires some form of 
intervention, individuals may need to be convinced that the intervention 
does not create its own impacts, or that such impacts have been taken into 

Ascription of Responsibility: Although AR(self) is common to both the 
original and extended models, one might expect a consideration of who 
benefits from treatment to play a greater role in the public goods case. The 
non-excludable nature of public goods means that a great many individuals 
may benefit from treatment, leading to the perception that those who benefit 
from provision of such goods should contribute towards their provision. 

The importance of shared responsibility, and trust in other citizens has 
already been discussed in detail, as has the role of third party organisations. 
With respect to the latter, it is interesting to note the work of Stern et al 
(1986, p205) who used the model to help explain judgements (personal 
norms) and intended actions regarding the moral obligation of industry and 
government to resolve hazardous chemical problems. Results showed that 
although judgements concerning the moral obligations of industry depended 
on both AC and AR(industry), government was held to be morally 
responsible to act even if it was not responsible for the problem. 

Figure 3: Process Model Of Norm-Activation When Public Goods Are Involved 


Original Model 

Extended Model 

Awareness of Need (AN) 

1 Identify individual(s) in need 

2 Identify indirect needs of friends or 
family of person tn need 

1 Identify human or non-human species in need 

2 Identify indirect needs For example, human 
dependence on public goods 

3 Relative need of this cause, compared to 
others (substitute and complement causes). 

4 Opportunity costs of satisfying need (mutually 
exclusive needs) 

5 Impacts of Proposed Intervention (where 
applicable) For example, will pipeline create its 
own impacts 

Ascription of 

Responsibility (AR) 

1. To self 

-responsibility for treatment 
-responsibility for cause of problem 
-ability to help 

2. To other members of society 
-diffused responsibility 

1. To self 

-responsibility for treatment 
-responsibility for cause of problem 
-expected beneficiaries from treatment 
-ability to help 

2. To other members of society 

-as for self, but concerned with responsibilities of 
other citizens. 

-shared responsibility 
-diffused responsibility 

3. To third party organisations 

(eg Government, industry) 

-as for self; plus 
-organisational responsibilities 

Awareness of 
Consequences (AC) 

1. Consequences for helpee 
-will intervention be effective in 
preventing impact 

2. Consequences for helper (self) 
-physical, material or other direct 

-moral and value implications 
-social implications 

1 Consequences for helpee 

-will any intervention(s) be effective in 
preventing impact (-trust in government <Si 

-perceived decisiveness of individual behaviour 
-decisiveness of collective (eg decisiveness of 
survey outcome, decisiveness of petition) 

-would government do its bit 7 (eg would funds be 

-would enough others contribute' 7 

2. Consequences for helper (self) 

-physical, material or other direct implications, 
including costs of non-compliance (could 
contributions be avoided, perceived probability 
of getting caught, consequences of getting 

-moral and value implications 
-social implications 

3. Consequences for society more generally 
-social benefits 

-social costs 

Acceptance of Policy 
Initiatives (API) 

-including all forms of 
implementation of AC and 

Boomerang Effects: Has helpees 
appeal for help been made in a 
manipulating and/or biased way, or in a 
way that undermines motives' 7 

Who do initiatives imply is responsible for 

What would consequences be of these 

What organisations/ third parties are involved' 7 

How trustworthy are these organisations' 7 

Are initiatives distnbutively fair 7 

Are initiatives procedurally fair 7 
(Including the question of whether helpees. or 
parlies acting on behalf of helpees. have 
appealed for help in manipulating and/or biased 
way, or in a way that undermines motives 7 ) 

Are initiatives practical 7 (transaction costs etc) 


Awareness of Consequences: In the case of public goods, assessing the 
consequences for the helpee will involve greater attention to third parties 
such as government and scientists. The recent unintended release of the 
calicivirus in South Australia is unlikely to have aided trust in scientists. 
Another factor incorporated within the extended model but not the original 
model involves the decisiveness of individual and collective actions. An 
individual signer of a petition has little influence on the outcomes at stake, 
and indeed, so may the results of the petition as a whole: government may 
not attach much weight to the petition when making a decision. A 
perception that government does not listen clearly reduces the perceived 
influence of individual actions, which in the case of voting behaviour, can 
cause individuals to attach greater weight to expressive concerns at the 
evaluation stage. 

Although consequences for individual actors fall within the same three 
general categories in both the original and extended models, the significance 
of different consequences will vary dramatically on a contextual basis. One 
would expect, for example, that perceived costs of non-compliance would 
tend to be higher in cases of regulatory compliance than voluntary 
contributions. Expressive factors will, however, often play a greater role 
in motivating voluntary rather than compulsory contributions. Submitting 
one s tax return may not engender the same feelings of warm glow that a 
donation to charity might. In Figure 2, AR(self) is essentially the 
responsibility the individual ascribes to herself, prior to an evaluation of the 
policy bargain. AR(self) will be influenced by acceptance of responsibility 
for the cause of any problems contributing to the need for the policy 
initiative, and any personal benefits that are expected to emerse from the 
initiative. The third type of consequence, which features only in the 
extended model, pertains to consequences for society as a whole. Because 
individuals may perceive that responsibility should be shared among other 
members of society, who also stand to benefit from treatment, it seems 
natural that individuals may think in terms of costs and benefits to society as 
a whole, rather than just to the helpee(s) and themselves. 

The peripheral way that Schwartz addressed procedures and policies 
involved in the implementation of AR and AC has previously been discussed 
in detail, along with the proposed inclusion of API in the extended model. 


A question that arises is the order in which the individual processes AN, 

AR, AC and API, and the various beliefs within each. Although it is 
expected that AN would normally precede AR, AC and API, the order in 
which the last three categories of belief are processed is by no means clear. 
Indeed, stage 1 of Schwartz's model will potentially involve elements of all 
lour categories. In some contexts it is clearly unrealistic to expect all 
individuals to have completed their initial assessment of all aspects of the 
need stage, before proceeding to the effective action stage, and then the 
ability stage. One would instead expect the order of processing to depend 
on the interaction of contextual factors with individual factors such as held 
values, beliefs, dispositions, physical and emotional state, and endowment 
(eg. income) (Blarney, 1996). From a symbolic interactionist perspective, 
we might say that in addition to meanings that are generated by the social 
structure, and biological factors, are meanings that arise from processes of 
interaction, and the interpretive procedures that this involves. 

An individual who is informed at an early stage about the opportunity costs 
at stake is likely to consider this factor earlier, on average, than those who 
are supplied with the information later. The same can be expected to apply 
to information regarding policy initiatives, impacts of proposed 
interventions, government responsibility and so on. Iyengar (1990, 1989) 
considers the way framing can influence ascribed responsibility. Whilst 
individuals will often be oblivious to consequences and even needs for 
which they are not responsible, an awareness of consequences of possible 
action may also precede assessment of responsibility. A series of iterations 
among AN, AR, AC and API is a key feature of the process model outlined 
above. Similar considerations apply to the way costs and benefits are 

The extended norm-activation model presented above is clearly more 
encompassing than the original model developed by Schwartz, and provides 
a more complete framework with which to view the activation ot norms in 
the context of public good contributions, than the simple transformation 
adopted by some authors, as noted in the introduction. It is interesting to 
note the following statement made by Hopper and Nielsen (1991, p217) at 
the end of their conclusion; ‘To be sure, many social and institutional 
factors excluded from this study also play a role in motivating household 
recycling. On an individual level, however, altruistic motivations have been 


found to be one relevant factor. Moreover, deliberately introducing social 
interactions around recycling efforts can substantially increase behaviour, 
whatever the motivations may be”. Although Stern et al (1986) make some 
important distinctions between personal action and social and political 
action, for example, the importance of beliefs concerning the 
responsibilities of industry' and government, they focus the vast majority of 
their discussion and analysis on social and political judgements, and not 
action. They are left to “presume that the personal the 
social sphere when people take political and social action...”(p207). The 
incentive-structure that individuals face in the transition from social 
judgements to social action is not discussed. 

The extended model of norm-activation outlined above has quite a lot in 
common with Levi’s framework for considering contingent consent. Levi 
(1991, pi) refers to contingent consenters as “those individuals who want to 
act morally, who would like to contribute to the collective good, all things 
being equal, but who will do so only under certain conditions”. The 
conditions of consent that Levi outlines include a positive evaluation of the 
collective good, social norms and values that produce feelings of obligation, 
a belief that collective action is needed to produce the collective good; a 
belief that the costs of consent are bearable, an assurance that most others 
are contributing, and that government can be trusted to do its bit. In 
contrast to the framework outlined by Levi (1993), the model presented in 
this paper pays greater attention to the processes through which individuals 
bring the various factors together in reaching their decisions, and is more 
encompassing in terms of the contingencies outlined, and the range of 
potential applications. 

4. A Case Study Example 

The extended norm-activation model presented above can potentially be 
applied to many different types of individual decisions. The intention in 
this section is to illustrate how different components of the model are 
manifested in one particular case study. The case study involved asking 
individuals if they were prepared to make a $50 contribution to a project 
designed to prevent a decline in environmental quality of the South 
Australian Coorong. 


Because it was not possible to ask individuals for actual donations, 
individuals were presented with a questionnaire which explained the basics 
ot the proposed project and then asked it they would be prepared to make a 
$50 contribution toward the project. Individuals were told that the 
questionnaire was a draft of a questionnaire that the government was 
intending to send to a large sample of individuals. Focus group sessions 
were then held in which individuals discussed the proposal in detail, 
enabling extensive qualitative data to be obtained^. These qualitative 
results are presented in section 4.2, following a more detailed outline of the 

4.1 Methods 

The qualitative research presented in this section focuses on the 
identification and illustration of factors that influenced individuals when 
deciding whether to promise the above-mentioned $50 contribution. The 
project involved the building of a pipeline designed to protect the South 
Australian Coorong (and nearby Tilley’s Swamp) from being negatively 
affected by water coming out of a groundwater drainage system, the 
purpose of the drainage system being to reduce agricultural problems 
associated with rising groundwater tables in the Upper South East of South 
Australia. The important question for the purpose of this research was 
what to do with the water that comes out of the drainage scheme. Should it 
be allowed to flow into the Coorong, thereby altering the natural 
environment of this world heritage area, or should a pipe be built to divert 
the water out to the ocean, before it enters the Coorong? Individuals were 
told that the pipe would be expensive, and were asked if they were prepared 
to make a once-off contribution of $50 toward the pipe. In order to see how 
individuals respond to different modes of payment, for example payment 
through a levy on income taxes as opposed to water rates, participants were 
presented with several possible payment mechanisms, one being included in 
the initial questionnaire, and other possibilities being raised later in the 

10 p or an interesting alternate environmental example of the use of small 
groups, see Burgess et al (1988a,b). 

11 Krueger (1988, p 18) defines a focus group as a: “carefully planned 
discussion designed to obtain perceptions on a defined area of interest in a 


Data was obtained from 9 focus group sessions^ Discussions began at 
the most general level, with the facilitator first requesting respondents to 
fill out a questionnaire, containing basic information about the origin of the 
groundwater, the impacts that water coming out of the groundwater drains 
would have on the Coorong, and how the pipe would prevent these impacts, 
but at a cost of $50 per head, to be charged in a particular way. The 
questionnaire finished by asking individuals whether they were prepared to 
make this payment. 

An important question that had to be addressed in designing the 
questionnaire was how much information to present respondents with, and 
of what type. Although it would be unrealistic to expect respondents to 
make informed comments in the absence of information about the project, 
we did not want to prime their thoughts too dramatically. In order to 
obtain a comprehensive pool of beliefs important to individuals in reaching 
their decisions, individuals were asked open-ended questions regarding both 
what was included in the questionnaire, and what they thought had been 
omitted, or was not covered in sufficient detail. The open-ended prompts 
took the following form: What influenced your response the most?; Did you 
find anything to be unclear or ambiguous?; Is there anything that you 
disagreed with or didn't like?; Was there any information that you thought 

permissive, nonthreatening environment. It is conducted with approximately 
seven to ten people by a skilled interviewer. The discussion is relaxed, 
comfortable, and often enjoyable for participants as they share their ideas and 

perceptions. Group members influence each other by responding to ideas and 
comments in the discussion.” 

a key advantage of the focus group over structured and even semi- 

structured interviews is that respondents are not limited by the choices 

offered. By providing a less intimidating environment, and permitting the 
participants rather than the interviewer to take the lead, focus groups can also 

have advantages over non-directive interviews that use open ended questions. 
Researchers can thus see reality from the subject’s point of view (Krueger, 

1987). Qualitative research is clearly important for identifying the beliefs and 
attitudes that individuals actually consider when making environmental 
decisions, and gaining some idea of the relative importance of these constructs. 
Identifying the importance of given beliefs using regression analysis is 
complicated by the tendency of environmental beliefs to be correlated with one 

another, meaning that a statistically significant regression coefficient does not 

necessarily indicate that respondents considered the particular construct at the 

time of formulating their response. Rather, variables may attain statistical 
significance solely through their correlation with more generalised 
environmental attitudes. 


was missing?; What further information do you think you need?; Did you 
think any of the information was biased? 

Because impacts to the Coorong are potentially of national significance, the 
focus groups were held in three separate geographic regions: the local town 
of Naracoorte, the nearest major city, Adelaide, and interstate, Sydney. 
Available resources permitted 3 focus groups to be held in each of these 
locations^. The particular group to which the verbatim quotes listed 
below correspond is indicated at the end of the citation for each quote, using 
the abbreviations Nl-3, A1-3, and SI to 3. N2 thus refers to the second 
focus group conducted in Naracoorte. Where exchanges among several 
individuals are given, the first individual’s statement is preceded by a ‘1’, 
the second by a ‘2’, and so on. 

4.2 Results 

The focus here is on identifying the numerous ways in which AC, AR and 
API manifest themselves in the context of the case study. Although all 4 
stages of the norm-activation model are considered, most of the beliefs 
correspond to stages 1, 4 and 2(i). Although psychological and social 
implications, along with anticipatory evaluation, are expected to be 
important components of the model, they are less amenable to identification 
through self-reports. Similarly, it is difficult to identify whether a given 
belief is associated with an individual's first encounter with stage 1, as 
opposed to subsequent defensive encounters. 

Results indicated that the main beliefs driving the formulation of individual 
decisions could be loosely grouped under the following five headings: (i) 

1 3 Recruitment was undertaken by a professional recruitment agency, the only 
specification being to ensure that approximately 8 individuals aged 18 or over 
turn up at any one meeting, and that overall the group profile should be as 
demographically representative of the general population for that town or 
city, as practically possible. Groups were held at 10.30 am, 6pm and 8pm, and 
lasted an average of approximately 1 hr and 40 minutes. As one would expect, 
slightly more women than men were recruited, particularly for the 10.30 am 
meeting. Participants covered a wide range of age and socioeconomic groups. 
The minimum attendance at any 1 group was 7, and the maximum 10. Overall, 

52 respondents attended the 9 focus groups. With the exception of Naracoorte. 
where focus groups were held in a unused motel dining room, the groups were 
held at specially designed facilities, with viewing rooms and video and audio 
facilities. The author moderated 6 of the nine groups, with a colleague 
moderating N3, A2 and S2. 


awareness/denial of need; (ii) identification and assessment of proposed 
intervention/ solution; (iii) responsibility for treatment; (iv) identification 
and assessment of proposed payment; and (v) other boomerang effects and 
procedural and distributive concerns. These categories are not mutually 
exclusive. The notions of responsibility identified in (iii), for example, 
pervade much of (iv), and (v). 

4.2.1 Awareness/ Denial of Need 

In the present study, awareness and denial of need were found to manifest 
themselves in several forms. The first of these relates to awareness and 
acceptance that an object or objects are in need. In this case this involves 
acceptance that the Coorong would be negatively effected by a rise in water 

What would happen if the water level did rise-Would some other things 
flourish? N1 

Are there individuals that are going to suffer from it? ....There could be 
a five kilometre variation in the swampland. Is it going to impact on 
individual properties. N1 

You need to know how endangered some of these species are...N3. 

Has there been an environmental study on it. N1 

The fact that the Coorong is a national park, and a world heritage area, 

provided an important indicator for individuals of the need to leave it in its 
current state: 

1 the last sentence where it says Australia has international obligations 
really sums the whole thing up. We cant touch it 

2 it carries a lot of weight A2 

Exposure to media coverage of the issue was also taken as an indicator of 

I’ve never even heard of this issue until why hasn't this been 
publicised earlier if it is so important. SI 

I ve never heard of this but ...I’ve heard of cotton fanners pinching all 
the water, I ve heard of many environmental issues but I’m sorrv I’ve 
not heard of this one so isn’t there other bigger problems... why is this 


such a big issue to me if all the other environmental issues are 
overcrowding this one. SI 

Several participants, in several groups, wanted to know what the natural 
state ot the Coorong was. The need for action that prevents water level 
rises is then assessed in light of this historic reference level. 

If you talk to many of the old people who lived around the Coorong 
many many years ago they’ll tell you that they never had the smells that 
we have now. N3 

What’s naturally been happening? SI 

If you’ve ever been there you’d think the more water you'd put there the 
better get rid of all that smelly rotting aquatic plant matter..would Hush 
the whole thing out. A2 

Some individuals seemed less concerned with the specifics of the situation in 
the Upper South East, focussing their comments more on attitudes and 
beliefs of a more general environmental nature. Some participants 
appeared to think of their possible contribution more in terms of doing 
their bit to help the environment as a whole, than paying money to obtain a 
specific environmental improvement. The following comments are 
illustrative of this symbolic tendency : 

It’s a dollar a week. ...You wouldn’t even miss it... Australia-we've got a 
great country-We should be looking after our country. ...I feel very 
strongly about what has happened with the environment-and I think a 
dollar a week is not much. SI 

1. I reckon I'd pay the money. 2. I care for the environment...S1 

1 I'm not a greenie. I have my own ideas but I do believe that the 
environment should be left the way it is 

2 Just leave everything the way it is...SI 

4.2.2 Identification and Assessment of Proposed 
Intervention /Solution 

As previously noted, the questionnaire with which participants were 
presented mentioned that a pipeline could be built to avoid impacts ot excess 
water on the Coorong. As with most requests for donations, a specific need 
must be described to individuals, before contributions are sought. 


Individuals’ responses to this information indicate the importance that they 
attach to it. A number of individuals, in several groups, questioned not just 
whether the pipe would work, but also whether the drainage system that is 
responsible for the increased flows, would work: 

So this [drain] would help ns...Supposedly help us (2nd participant). N1 

You say it’s going to improve these things...I beg to differ ...I think it 
may not improve it. And like, are there going to be ongoing costs that 
we’re going to have to suffer from doing this...There will be 
maintenance on a pipeline. N1 

Will the aboriginal people let the pipeline go through there? N1 

Are there any alternatives to the pipeline, such as desalinisation plants. 


Let’s not spend all this multi-million dollars-let’s chuck a few million 
dollars at farmers and relocate them. S1 

A common theme running through most groups involved consequences of 
building the pipe: 

It might be a tourist attraction (jokingly)A1 

Why isn’t there any impact on the ocean [of putting the water in 

I just wondered whether there might be something about the visual 
impact of what this thing would look like. You thought of think it would 
look very' ugly, but it might not look so ugly? N2 

What..ahh. sort of effect is that pipeline going to have coming across the 

land. ...What sort of clearage do they have to do...Will that cause 
erosion. ..Al 

Some individuals needed less convincing, as the second individual in this 

1 Is it absolutely necessary that they have to have the pipeline. Is it the 

only way of doing it? 2.1 think you’ll find that these things have been 
fairly intensely studied. A3 

One effect that the request for a financial contribution had on individuals 
was to make them defensively re-analyse the need for the pipe. The 
presence of other environmental and social problems meant that this often 


involved the assessment of relative need, or need in the presence of 
substitute and complement causes. Generally speaking, the further 
individuals lived from the Upper South-East, the more concerned they 
became with this matter: 

People could look at this and probably identify a 100 other 
[environmental] issues of approximately equal importance. A3 

50 many things need doing in the environment. We’ve got to get the 
priorities right. Because we can't go on paying and paying. SI 

I think it confuses people. If you do your own housekeeping and you 
want to buy a new fridge, a new washer, new carpet, what do you do- 
you buy one thing at a time. 2 You prioritise. A3 

This sought (sic) of project, it really needs to be done in a variety of 
places, not just in the Coorong area. It needs to be done all the way out 
through the Murray River System.What's so special about this area? 


A common theme concerned the effectiveness of individuals’ payments. Of 
particular concern, was the extent to which government would earmark, or 
target, donations for the pipe (ie trust in government): 

Will it be like the road taxes? Will it go onto what they say it will? A3 

Look at the petrol tax that we are paying...It doesn't go to the roads. A3 

1. We’ll agree to a voluntary environmental levy if...all the money that 
is given goes in material 2. and not in wages. 1 You've got a cynic in 
the audience. A3 

To just add more taxes on would be filling the pockets of the politicians. 

More commonly, however, individuals were not concerned with whether 
they were able to help, through payment, but rather whether they were 
responsible for such action. 

4.2.3 Responsibility for Treatment 

Two key considerations in ascertaining responsibility for action, both to 
oneself, and others, are ascription of responsibility for cause ot the 


problem, and identification of beneficiaries of the action (Brickman et al, 

a) Cause of problem 

Respondents in the Naracoorte groups correctly identified the main three 
causes of the salinity problem. Clearing of vegetation, irrigation, and the 
lucerne aphid crisis. There was some recognition that bore water comes 
from Western Victoria. It was commented that it’s not just the South East’s 
responsibility. Indeed, when asked whether Western Victoria should pay, 
one participant stated ‘Absolutely’, and another jokingly stated that ‘I 
reckon they should pay all of it given that they got our Grand Prix’ (Nl). 

It is important to note that responsibility for the salinity problem is distinct 
from responsibility for the problem created by the drainage system. 
Although a number of participants attributed both problems to farming 
practices, some attributed the problem associated with the drain to poor 
government decisions: 

1. We all need our farmers don't we. 2 But a lot of city people don’t 
think that. 

It’s their [Adelaide people’s] rubbish that gets into the rivers. And they 
can stop that by not dropping their litter. But the fanners can’t stop the 
salt coming up in the soil. It’s out of their control. N2 

The problem is, when people started to farm like that back 200 years 
ago, they didn’t know about these things...They are changing their 

practices, but there is still a lot to be done.You treated disease 20 

years ago differently to how you treat it it’s not totally the 
farmer’s fault. SI 

They haven’t told us what is causing the salinity in the first place....He’s 
[the farmer] gone there and decided to plant on it, and it’s not working 
out. Get off the land! I’m a businessman, if my business dies, no-one is 
going to come and give me a $50 levy and say I’m sorry mate your 
business is not going very well. SI 

To me it sounds as if they [government] should have done a more 
thorough EIS before they approved it [the drainage system]. S2 

b) Beneficiaries of solution 

A question that commonly arose was whether individuals living outside SA 

should have to pay. Some participants thought that the States could better 
deal with their own issues: 


NSW government could concentrate on say the Parramatta river, the 
Nepean river. Victoria and... SA could maybe get together for the 
Murray and stuff like that. SI 

Why should we pay? It’s in their backyard. SI 

Others thought preserving the Coorong is a national responsibility: 

The Coorong not only benefits SA but it benefits all of Australia-so 
everybody should chip in. A3 

I'd like to see it Australia wide, because the Coorong is a national 
heritage to the whole country. It’s not something South Australians are 
only proud of. There are a lot of Australians who are also proud of it. 
So I'd like to see the whole of Australia pay for the pipeline. 

One person in A1 commented that people are more aware of rainforests, 
and the Coorong would be better known if it had a rainforest in it. Some 
participants seemed to think that whether or not the Coorong is considered 
to be of national importance depends on public awareness of it. If people 
were made aware of it, it would be of greater national importance. 
However, on probing, they agreed that people should pay if it is actually of 
national importance, but they are unaware of this. 

Although a number of participants thought that, in principle, all of 
Australia should pay, because all of Australia stands to benefit from 
improvements in the Coorong, they were less willing to endorse such a 
requirement when norms of r eciprocity between States were considered: thing that concerns that if you set a precedent...the 
Coorong needs this and we get Australia to do it...what if there s a 
thousand million dollars of work that wants doing in Queensland...once 
you get a precedent set you'll be paying for environmental problems in 
other states. A2 

1. We can’t afford to pay their problems. Why should they pay ours. 2 
We do. N1 

c) Ability of others to pay. 

Some individuals thought that those who are least able to afford payment 
should not have to pay anything, or at least not as much as others who are 


financially better off. Thus even though individuals may have contributed 
to a problem, and stand to benefit from its treatment, it may not be 
appropriate for them to pay: 

1. People who are on the dole...and pensioners- do they have to pay too? 

2. Well they couldn’t afford it. A3 

I’d want to know more about the levy. How is it going to be collected? 
What, is it going to be a % of your wage, or is it going to be a flat rate. 
Coz pensioners ...are they going to pay the same amount of money. S3 

d) Implementation of responsibility 

A key component of the extended norm-activation model is the extent to 
which individuals accept policy initiatives pertaining to the implementation 
of AC and AR. The focus group discussions highlighted the importance of 
the distinction between AR in principle, and AR as implemented as part of 
the proposed policy initiative. These findings are presented in the next two 

4.2.4 Identification and Assessment of Proposed Contribution 

As noted earlier, the reaction of individuals to several different payment 
mechanisms was explored in the focus groups. Consider how individuals 
responded to these different suggestions. 

a) Payment through a levy on income tax? 

There was quite a lot of resistance, in all but one group, to the notion of 

funding the pipe through an increase in income taxes. 

Its an inappropriate method of collection anyway, because...a lot of 
people don’t lodge tax returns. SI 

Why not the general taxpayers...too hard to administer? N3 

1 Too much evasion...and you don’t know whether its really goin a there 

then ' & 

2 also inequitable. N3 

Some were more positive, however: 

1.1 think it’s probably the easiest way. 2 It’s the fairest way. N2 


I think this [income tax] is an appropriate way to pay for the pipeline, 
because the Coorong area and that belongs to all of SA... N2 

Some participants suggested that a progressive tax would be more equitable: 

1. They could vary the amount on your income. If you earn $50000 a 
year you pay $100. If you earn $5000 a year you pay $20. 

2. Maybe they could make it a sliding scale on people’s income, and 
make it so that some pay more [than others]...But I think every single 
person should do something. N2 

A major concern was with the size of the suggested tax increase. 

Participants wanted greater justification for a payment of this size. Because 
this concern also applied to other payment mechanisms, it is discussed in the 
next section. 

b) Payment through an abattoir levy, passed on to consumers of meat 

Overall, the idea of paying for the pipe through a levy to be imposed on 
abattoirs, and passed on to consumers of meat products, received little 
support, and for many was laughable. The main concerns appeared to be 
that (i) non-meat eaters should pay; (ii) abattoirs are suffering enough; (iii) 
other industries (such as wineries, and crops) are also responsible for the 
problems in the Upper South East: 

So vegetarians get out of it. N1 

It’s an environmental issue and should be funded on a greater scale N1 

Its a bit deceiving it sounds like the consumer is the only one who's 
paying it when in reality it will help to pull the price of livestock the producer will bear some of the cost as well...the producer 
always ends up paying some of it. N3 (abattoir) 

A small number of individuals supported the idea, for reasons such as the 

Liked it ...because you can pick and chose when you but meat. N1 

c) Payment through house or water rates? 

The idea of payment through increases in property or water rates received 
mixed support among the groups. Obviously this mechanism is most 
feasible at a local, or possibly State level. For the purpose of redirecting 


water, payment through water rates appeared to make more sense to 
individuals than payment through property rates. The fact that various 
levies on water rates have already been imposed in some areas, for example 
for improving the environment and water quality of the Murray River and 
Patawalonga/Torrens (Adelaide residents), appeared to create a degree of 
resistance to the suggestion of further rates increases. Some individuals 
began to wonder what there rates are paying for? Payment through rates 
was also questioned on distributive grounds. Numerous individuals 
appeared to conduct a type of incidence analysis of the proposed payment 

Everyone’s not all paying anyway, because a lot of people don’t even 
own a house. N2 

But everyone doesn’t pay water rates. They have pumps and things. They 
get there own water. N2 

I don’t pay house rates. I don’t pay water rates. So I mean, I can’t say 
yea or nea. N2 

1. The people who are renting...they miss out again...2 If they’ve got to 
raise the money from somewhere it should be a general tax that 
everybody pays. Not just householders. A3 

On the likelihood of house owners passing the levy on to tenants: 

Don’t think they would do that. How would they do that? They sign a 
lease with the rent on it...It’s very hard for the landlords to change the 
rent. N2 

d) Government responsibility for payment 

A theme that arose in every group, and discussed at length in many, 
concerned the responsibility of government to pay for such interventions 
through existing taxation revenue. Individuals who believed that the pipe 
should be paid out of consolidated revenue, did not see themselves as 
responsible for any payment in addition to what they already pay in taxes. 
Blarney and Common (1996) found widespread support for the belief that 
environmental improvements should be paid out of existing taxation 

You cannot see very much of it [The Coorong]. But it’s still an important 
part of our environment. The same as these other parts of Australia, and 


accordingly, payment for it should come out of consolidated revenue, 
with some being paid by the SA government, some by the Australian 
government. ..Al 

Let’s fund this elsewhere from another department’s revenue...or go 
across the broad range of state government departments and say well lets 
talk about a reallocation of ahmm budgets...A1 

I think they need to get out to the public and say look this is what we 
have done...This is our income. This is what we have done. Give the 
public a balance sheet. A3 

...These soil of issues are really what taxes should pay for. What do you 
pay your taxes for? You pay your taxes to have things that can't be done 
by private enterprise. A3 

Yes we have to pay for it. But I don't support levies...If you haven’t got 
enough money, you increase taxation 
[in general]. A3 

4.2.5 How Much to Contribute? 

The questionnaire stated that if the pipe was to be built, each Australian 
taxpayer would have to make a once off additional payment of $50. 
Participants were generally aware of the impact this $50 would have on 

1 for my daughter it would be like a hit on the back of the head.... 

2 That's really difficult (emotionally). We’re all being squeezed for 
more and more...You want to do all of this...You want to. Al 

That $50, it could be your kid new shoes. SI 

1 I could think of about 20 things I could go out and buy for $50. Giving 
$50 to SA-when it’s not even NSW...2. I think that's a lot. $50 for every' 
person in Australia. 3 That’s a lot of money SI. 

However others suspected that it would actually cost them more than $50: 
More likely more...There’s always added costs. Al 

One of the more interesting findings concerned the information participants 
needed when deciding whether or not to favour the pipe at a cost ol $50 per 
head. A constant theme, that ran across all nine groups, with consensus in 


most if not all groups, was the need for information regarding the total cost 
of building the pipe. By dividing this estimate by an estimate of the number 
of individuals paying, individuals could then decide whether the $50 per 
head figure was reasonable. The question of whether to favour the pipe at a 
cost of $50, was then framed as follows: Would the social costs associated 
with a decline in the value of the Coorong (and Tilley’s Swamp) exceed the 
cost of building the pipe, in millions of dollars? 

I think it is insulting people’s intelligence not to give them an estimate 
[of cost].SI 

1: This $ that for the whole of South Australia...It says by each SA 
landowner...That seems outrageous to me ...That’s a huge amount of 
money. 2: But its going to cost a huge amount of money. 3 Well how 
many people are in SA.A million and a bit....$55 million say. N1 

I think they should put in here what they estimate its going to cost... 

They need to say how much they are going to raise from each household. 
List the percentage that they probably won’t get...ahmm...and what the 
pipeline’s expected to cost. You need a costing in this because people 
won’t agree to pay $50 if it doesn’t sound credible. N1 

1. Does that [$50] have any relation to the actual cost of the pipe? ...Just 
trying to estimate how many landowners there would be in SA that 
would have to pay that $50. Well...I really have no idea, but I would say 
that it might raise...somewhere between 5 and 10 million dollars. 2. It 
doesn’t say how much it raises. Whether it would cover the cost or not... 
3 I was curious where the $50 came from. A1 

It does not say how much in total this is going to cost? It can only cost 
400 million and we are talking 12 billion. What are they going to do. 
Paint the pipe every 12 months. SI 

I’d like to know how much the whole thing is going to cost....Every 

taxpayer in Australia paying $50 is a hell of a lot of money to build a 
pipe. SI 

How many taxpayers? If there is 10 million taxpayers, paying $50, that’s 
$500 million...! SI 

We need to know what the pipe costs so we can decide if the Cooron^ is 
worth it. SI 


A common assumption of participants, in the South Australian groups in 
particular, was that an Australia-wide payment would mean less payment 
for each individual. 

1. It wouldn’t be $50 [per head] if over entire region. If over entire 
region, might be $5. 

2 ...You don’t know how many people [are paying]...N3 

If everybody pays it’s going to be a smaller amount [per head] than if 
only half of us pay. SI 

4.2.6 Trust and Assurances 

The extended norm-activation model indicates that trust in government, and 
trust in other citizens, are likely to be important factors driving individual 
decisions. Both found support in the focus group discussions. Because 
individuals were not informed of any industry commitments, discussion of 
industry tended to focus more on questions of responsibility than trust. 
a) Trust in Government 

A major theme running across the groups concerned trust, or lack thereof, 
in government. One variant of this concerned use of funds, which has 
already been considered. Another concerned the proposed once-off levy: 

the other thing I wouldn't trust is the levy being applied for one year my experience they never add onto the price of something and 
then take it off. Once its there they find an excuse to leave it there 
permanently. N3 

I cannot believe them when they say that is once off. SI 

I've got a lot of suspicion about once-off levies. We’ve all paid our 
once-off petrol tax for 5 years. We've all paid our once off levy on 
water rates, for a number of years, and lots of other once offs. And 
there’s lots of other issues that might come up. SI 

1. Once off becomes...2 very often once off. SI 
Some of the comments reported in section 4.2.2 are also suggestive ot a 
degree of distrust in scientists , the majority of whom work tor government 
departments and public universities. 

b) Trust in other citizens 


The extent to which individuals trust others to contribute $50 toward the 
pipe is evident in their different reactions to suggestions of compulsory and 
voluntary payment: 

If it was voluntary, you’d probably find that a lot of people might leave 
it off...But if you were forced to do it, it’s just extra on top of your tax. 


1. It should be a voluntary payment. 2 They wouldn’t raise much then 
would they. A3 

The following comments apply to the suggestion of voluntary donations: 

1. Wouldn’t get much there...It’d be a pretty small pipeline! 

2. Won’t work. N2 

Wouldn’t work coz they wouldn’t get enough money. A3 

You wouldn’t donate $50. It would be more like $2. SI 

1. And who pays the collectors and who pays the bankers. 2 It comes out 
of the money that you donate. 1 Too much money out of donations gets 
done in bookkeeping. S1 

Whilst some individuals thought that compliance with rate or tax increases 
would be largely unavoidable, if implemented, others were less sure: 

What happens if people don’t pay. Would this be law?...Are we going to 
spend millions of dollars litigating these people. N1 

You know what they do if you don’t pay your rates. N1 

4 . 2.7 Boomerang Effects and Procedural and Distributive 

A range of concerns falling under this general banner have already been 
covered. Many of these involve a general cynicism, and rejection, 
regarding increased government charges. The way such concerns can lead 
to inaction is illustrated in the following statements: 

I selected no [I wouldn’t pay anything] because I don’t see how it would 
happen that we would just get it once off. So I objected straight awav 


I just object to it coming through the taxpayer. Kick the middle class 
again. People who actually pay tax. SI 

I’d pay a levy if I thought it was worth it. If I was convinced. Secondly, 

1 don’t think it is the way to collect the money. SI 

a) Boomerang effects and biased information 

The difficulty of providing information that a significant proportion of 
individuals will not view as biased was noted in section 3.4, and is 
illustrated by the following statements: 

Its always hard to present a balanced view between showing an areas true 
worth and what the greenies really want everyone to think its true worth 
is. So if this is really a bipartisan approach it should be stated here that 
really no developer or no greenie has got an axe to grind here and that 
everyone is in agreement about the value of the area and that would 
balance it out. SI 

1...sounded to me as it was a bit biased.... 

2 I’m sort of waiting for a hidden agenda to come up from 
sounds too goody two shoes for the government. A2 

b) Importance of community input 

Although the vast majority of participants thought that community input to 
environmental decisions was important, a few were happy to let government 
make the decisions. 

I don’t mind the government spending my taxes on all these projects, it 
the people were given the opportunity to vote on all these major projects 
in a referendum-or there might be an easier way of doing it that doesn t 
cost so much money. Like when you pay your rates and taxes. A3 

I’d question the point [of community input] ...because we are paying 
guys to do it who know a lot more than we do. A3 

c) Consequences of community input 

Some respondents questioned whether the results ot a community survey 
like the one with which they were provided would have any influence on the 

decision to build the pipe: 

They’re obviously going to build the pipe no matter what we think 
anyway. N3 


No matter what the people think [on issues in general], the government 
will sort of say yes we’ll do it... A3 

5. Discussion and Conclusion 

The results of the focus groups clearly indicate the complex nature of 
environmental preferences, and the tendency of individuals to construct, 
modify and defend their preferences partly on the basis of situational cues. 
The beliefs identified in these groups are supportive of the theoretical 
model presented earlier in the paper. The relative significance of the 
different Table 1 beliefs as determinants of individual behaviour will of 
course vary from one case to the next, as it will among different 
individuals, and different cultures. Opportunity costs, for example, would 
have played a far greater role if the funds were to be used to buy out 

Although it is not possible in focus groups to identify the precise processes 
by which specific individuals formulate their responses, general process 
trends can sometimes be identified. As one might expect, the information 
contained in the questionnaire that most commonly triggered defensive 
reactions was that pertaining to payment. Such information caused the 
evaluations of many participants to become more evenly balanced, creating 
conflict, which they then sought to resolve by re-examining other 
information contained in the questionnaire. The focus of this re-assessment 
often involved payment related beliefs, such as: government and state 
responsibility for payment, trust in government to earmark funds, trust in 
government to stick to the proposed once only payment, required size of 
contribution and so on. Defensive re-assessments also involved other 
beliefs, however, particularly the need and relative need of the intervention. 
Assessments of relative need were particularly common in the Sydney focus 
groups, where the the Coorong is clearly lower on the list of government 
and community environmental priorities than many more local issues such 
as water pollution, and truly national and international issues such as global 

The model presented in this paper has implications for how researchers 
might attempt to model the adoption of green household practices, such as 
recycling. Studies that measure AC and AR in the context of isolated 
individual behaviour are likely to omit important factors that influence 
individual behaviour, such as the extent to which other citizens, and 


government, are trusted to meet their commitments. The model also has 
implications for how charities might market their products, and how 
government might increase support for new social programs, or compliance 
with existing regulations. Governments are more likely to gain support for 
green taxes, for example, if they commit to handing funds over to a trust 
charged with the responsibility of implementing the program (a guarantee 
that funds will be earmarked). Individuals are also more likely to donate to 
voluntary trust funds when they are assured that their contributions will not 
be ‘wasted’ on projects that are financially undersupported. Such assurance 
may require a “money-back guarantee” to be written in to the contract 
(Schmidtz, 1991, p66). In a survey of community attitudes to forests, 
Blarney and Common (1996) found compulsory preservation taxes to be less 
objectionable than voluntary donations, largely because taxes were 
perceived to be more consistent with notions of shared responsibility, and 
less permitting of free-riding. Schmitz (1991, p2) observes that “even if no 
one desires that the government take his or her money, it might nevertheless 
be true that everyone desires that the government takes everyone s money”. 
Arguments in favour of compulsory taxation need to be carefully balanced 
against psychological findings that suggest that policy instruments are 
ceteris paribus more effective when they are perceived as non-coercive 
(Young et al, 1996). Notions of fairness and responsibility thus need to be 
balanced against notions of freedom from coercion. Such considerations 
have lead some to advocate property rights mechanisms which “seek to 
compensate for, or reverse, market failure through mechanisms which 
make resource use opportunities consistent with social values" (Young et al, 
1996, pi 13). As with price-based incentives, the objective is to internalise 
social costs and benefits. In the context of strategies for conserving 
biodiversity. Young et al (1996) discuss the advantages and disadvantages of 
regulatory, voluntary, price and property based incentives, in addition to 
more fundamental motivational, educational and informational incentives. 

An interesting finding which emerges from the focus group results concerns 
the way in which individuals appeared to process the requested payment ot 
$50 per head. On the face of it, the findings in section 4.2.5 indicate 
considerable support for Kahneman et al's (1993) claim that many 
respondents adopt a contribution model when processing such information, 
rather than the purchase model assumed by economists. In contrast to the 
purchase model, where individuals are assumed to ask themsehes how much 


they are prepared to pay to obtain a specified environmental improvement, 
rather than do without it, the contribution model assumes that individuals 
treat the environmental improvement as a good cause that warrants 
supporting, but for which any one contribution will only be “a drop in a 
large bucket”(Kahneman et al, 1993, p311). Guagnano et al (1994, p411) 
interpret the contribution model to further involve a perception that “the 
amount of the good provided is directly related to the total of all 
contributions”. Unfortunately, Kahneman et al (1993) do not elaborate on 
exactly how the thought processes implied by the two models differ. The 
above focus group findings help clarify matters. There appear to be two 
main reasons why a number of participants needed to know the total cost of 
the pipe, in addition to the per-head costs. First, they appeared to be 
making their calculations at the aggregate level. Thus instead of asking 
whether or not they value the particular environmental improvement at at 
least $50, they ask whether the benefits to society as a whole are worth the 
costs to society, in millions of dollars. A second reason for wanting to 
know the total cost of the pipe was to help ascertain whether the stated cost 
per head of $50 was reasonable value. If they knew the total cost of the 
pipe, they could then divide it by the number of people they thought would 
end up contributing, and compare the resulting figure with $50. If it 
exceeded $50, the payment would be considered good value, or a fair price, 
and the individual would agree to contribute, subject to some or all of the 
other contingencies outlined in sections 2 and 3 above. If instead, the $50 
fee was considered to be bad value, the legitimacy of the government 
derived figures would be questioned, and no contribution promised^. A 
further implication of the contribution model is that individuals may be 
willing to pay more money for locally funded environmental issues, than 
national or international issues that they value more highly. The reason for 
this is that many more individuals can be expected to contribute to national 

The importance of this distinction can be seen by considering how 
individuals might respond to the question ‘What is the maximum you are 
willing to pay for a compact disc?' One might suspect that a common response 
would be in the vicinity of $30, the current recommended retail price in 
Australia, and that this would apply irrespective of whether they are operating 
at the margin of their collection. In this case, $30 is the most the individual is 

prepared to pay, without feeling that she is being ripped off. Any higher than 
$30 would be unreasonable. Of course, if the price of all CDs were to rise to $35, 
the individual would then be willing to pay a maximum of $35. This would not 

necessarily coincide, however, with an increase in utility associated with the 
consumption of CD’s. 


causes, meaning that each individual's share of the total cost may be lower 
than in the local case, where the total project cost is divided among a small 
number of individuals. The contribution model supported by the above 
qualitative data may have important implications for contingent valuation 
(CVM) studies in which environmental economists assume a purchase model 
interpretation of responses to questions similar to those employed in the 
above case study. It is clear that some individuals assess the magnitude of a 
requested financial contributions more in terms of fairness of price, than 
how it compares with the total value they assign to that good. 

The question of what motivates individuals to contribute to the public good 
has long puzzled social scientists. The main thrust of this paper has been to 
extend a well known psychological model of helping behaviour to 
encompass cases involving individual contributions to public goods. The 
final model represents an integration of a wide range of concepts from 
psychology, political science and economics. Previous attempts to apply 
Schwartz’s model of norm-activation to behaviour involving public goods 
have not generally addressed many of the important conditions for 
cooperation that have been considered in this paper. Political economists, 
on the other hand, have tended to focus on the identification of such 
conditions, without considering in a detailed way the psychological 
processes involved in bringing such factors together. Understanding 
‘micromotives’, and how they relate to ‘macrobehaviour’ (Schelling, 1978), 
can thus benefit from a transdisciplinary approach, such as that attempted in 
this paper. The qualitative data presented above illustrates how key 
elements of the model manifest themselves in the case of individual 
decisions of whether or not to promise financial contributions in exchange 
for public goods. The model would appear to be worthy ot further 



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URP Working Papers 

1987 - 1996 

No 1. Walker, Jill, Home-based Working in Australia: Issues & Evidence, October 1987 
[out of print]. 

No 2. Neilson, Lyndsay R., Metropolitan Planning in Australia: The Instruments of 
Planning — Regulation, April 1988 [out of print]. 

No 3. Neutze, Max, A Tale of Two Cities: Public Land Ownership in Canberra and 
Stockholm, May 1988 [out of print]. 

No 4. Troy, Patrick N. and Clement J. Lloyd, ‘Simply Washed Out by a Woman : Social 
Control, Status and Discrimination in a Statutory Authority, June 1988 [out of 

No 5. Wilmoth, David, Sydney's Metropolitan Strategy with A Comment by James R. 
Conner, June 1988 [out of print]. 

No 6. Metropolitan Planning in Australia: Urban Management, August 1988 [Papers by: 

M. Neutze, ‘Planning as Urban Management: A Critical Assessment’ and J. Mant, 
The Instruments of Planning: Urban Management’] [out of print]. 

No 7. Self, Peter, Metropolitan Planning: An International Perspective, September 1988 
[out of print]. 

No 8. Troy, Patrick N. and Clement J. Lloyd, Industrial Organisation: Work Practices and 
Rituals in the Hunter District Water Board, December 1988 [out of print]. 

No 9. Howard, Michael, Advocacy and Resistance: The Question of a Post-War 
Commonwealth Government Role in Community Facilities, Town Planning and 
Regional Planning, 1939-52, December 1988 [out of printj. 

No 10. Badcock, Blair, Metropolitan Planning in South Australia, January 1989 [out of 

No 11 . Metropolitan Planning in Australia: Urban Consolidation, May 1989 [Papers by: R. 
Cardew, ‘Urban Consolidation: A Comment on Prospects & Policy’; P.N. Troy, 
‘Metropolitan Planning & Urban Consolidation’; and R. Bunker, ‘A Decade of 
Urban Consolidation’] [out of print]. 

No 12. Bourassa, Steven, Postmodernism in Architecture and Planning: What Kind of 
Style? May 1989 [out of print] [since published in, Journal of Architectural and 
Planning Research 6,289-304, 1989]. 

No 13. Bourassa, Steven, Land Value Taxation and Housing Development for Three Cities 
in Pennsylvania, June 1989 [out of print] [since published as ‘Land value taxation 
and housing development: effects of the property tax reform in three tvpes of cities’ 
American Journal of Economics and Sociology 49, 101-11, 1990 and ‘Economic 

51 109-113 Xe i S 992] land: 3 rCVieW ’’ American Journal of Economics and Sociology 

No 14. Parkin, Andrew, Metropolitan Planning and Social Justice Strategies, August 1989 

No 15. Sawer, Marian, The Battle for the Family: Family Policy in Australian Electoral 
Politics in the 1980s, August 1989 [out of print]. 

No 16. Neutze, Max and Hal Kendig, Achievement of Home Ownership Among Post-War 
Australian Cohorts, September 1989 [out of print] [since published in Housing 
Studies, 6(1) January 1991]. 

No 17. Dawkins, Jeremy, The Planning of Places Like Perth, October 1989 [out of print]. 

No 18. O’Flanagan, Neil, The Sydney Harbour Trust: the Early Years, November 1989 [out 

of print]. 

No 19. Smith, Susan J., Gender Differences in the Attainment and Experience of Owner 
Occupation in Australia, December 1989 [out of print]. 

No 20. Sanders, Will, Policy-Making for Sydney's Airport Needs: A Comparative and 
Historical Perspective, December 1989 [out of print]. 

No 21. Government Provision of Social Services Through Nonprofit Organisations, 
February 1990. [Papers by Michael Lipsky, ‘A Note on Contracting as a Regime, 
and its Possible Relevance to Australia’ and Michael Lipsky and Steven Rathgeb 
Smith, ‘Government Provision of Social Services Through Nonprofit 
Organisations’] [out of print]. 

No 22. Self, Peter, Metropolitan Planning: Economic Rationalism and Social Objectives, 
July 1990 [out of print]. 

No 23. Greig, Alastair W., Retailing is More Than Shopkeeping: Manufacturing 
Interlinkages and Technological Change in the Australian Clothing Industry, August 
1990 [out of print] [since published as ‘Technological change and innovation in the 
clothing industry: the role of retailing’, Labour and Industry 3 (2 & 3) June/October 

No 24. Troy, Patrick N., The Evolution of Government Housing Policy: The Case of New 
South Wales 1901 -1941. September 1990 [since published in Housing Studies 
7(3), 216-233, Julyl992]. 

No 25. Troy, Patrick N. & Lloyd, Clement J., Patterns of Power: Control Strategies for 
Statutory Authorities — The Case of the Hunter District Water Board 1892-1990, 
January, 1991 

No 26. Greig, Alastair W., Rhetoric or Reality in the Clothing Industry: The Case of Post- 
Fordism, December 1990 [out of print] [since published in, Australian & New 
Zealand Journal of Sociology, 28(1) 1992] 

No 27. Greig, Alastair W., Sub-Contracting: The Seamy Side of the Clothing Industry', 
September 1991 [out of print] [since published as ‘Sub-contracting and the future of 
the Australian clothing industry’, Journal of Political Economy, 29 May 19921. 

No 28. Greig, Alastair W., The Structure and Organisation of Housing Production: a 
background paper and literature review, November 1991 [out of print] [since 
published as ‘Structure, organisation and skill formation in the Australian housing 
industry’. National Housing Strategy Background Paper No. 13]. 

No 29. Troy, Patrick N., The Benefits of Owner Occupation , December 1991. 

No 30. Peel, Mark, Planning the Good City in Australia: Elizabeth as a New Town, 

February 1992 [out of print]. 

No 31. 

No 32. 

No 33. 
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No 37. 

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No 40. 

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No 49 

Hendershott, Patric & Bourassa, Steven, Changes in the Relative Incentives to 
Invest in Housing: Australia, Sweden and the United States , February 1992 [out of 
print] [since published in. Journal of Housing Economics , 2, 60-83, 1992] 

Bourassa, Steven, The Rent Gap Debunked , September 1992.[out of print] [since 
published as ‘The rent gap debunked’, Urban Studies , 30(10), 1731-1744, 1993] 

Davison, Graeme, The Past and Future of the Australian Suburb , January 1993. 

Harloe, Michael, The Social Construction of Social Housing , February 1993. 

Bourassa, Steven & Hendershott, Patric, On the Distributional Effects of Taxing 
Imputed Rent, March 1993.[out of print] [since published as ‘On the equity effects 
of taxing imputed rent : evidence from Australia’, in Housing Policy Debate , 5(1), 
73-95, 1994]. 

Bourassa, Steven & Hendershott, Patric, Australian Real Housing Costs, June 
1993.[out of print] [since published as ‘Australian real housing costs 1979-1992’, 
Urban Futures 3(2), 33-37, Sept. 1993] 

Lusht, Kenneth, A Comparison of House Prices Brought by English Auction and 
Private Negotiations in Melbourne , July 1993. 

Peel, Mark, Making a Place: Women in the ‘Workers’ City’ , July 1993 [out of print] 
[since published in Australian Historical Studies , 26(102), 19-38, 1994] 

Bourassa, Steven, A Model of Housing Tenure Choice in Australia, August 
1993.[out of print] [forthcoming in Journal of Urban Economics ] 

Randolph, Bill, A Review of Community Housing in Australia, November 1993 
[out of print] reprints available @ $10.00 per copy 

Mowbray, Martin, Transforming the Great Australian Dream: The Quarter vs The 
30th of an Acre Block, February 1994 

Neutze, Max, The Costs of Urban Physical Infrastructure Services, July 1994 

Weaver, John, Scorned Hazards of Urban Land Markets: ‘The Carnival of Excess’ 
in Late-Nineteeenth Century Melbourne, November 1994 

Bourassa, Steven, Neutze, Max & Strong, Ann Louise, Leasehold Policies and 
Land Use Planning in Canberra , November 1994 

Gretg, Alastair, Housing and Social Theory: Testing the Fordist Models or Social 
Theory and AfFORDable Housing, February 1995 

Achieve?* £cM995 ^ Vrban and Re & ional Development Review: What Can It 

H^use, Aprin995° me Magazines and Modernist Dreams: Designing the 1950s 

Decorating the Home, 

Brown-May, Andrew, The Highway of Civilisation and Common Sense Street 

Ap2l'f99? fln5/ ° r, ” a "' 0 " 0fS0Cial Space in 19,h and 20th 

No 50 Murphy, John, The Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement of 1956 and the 
Politics of Home Ownership in the Cold War, November 1995 

No 51 Ball, David, The Road to Nowhere? Urban Preeway Planning in Sydney to 1977 and 
in the Present Day, February 1996 

No 52 Little, Steven, Back to the Future: The Networked Household in the Global 
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No 53 Greig, Alastair, The Accommodation of Growth: ‘Canberra’s Growing Pains’ 1945 - 

1955, July 1996 

No 54 Reid, Paul, How the Canberra Camel Got Its Hump: The Departmental Board’s Plan 
for Canberra; Its Origins and Consequences, July 1996 

No 55 Mullins, Patrick, Exploring the Line of Descent in the Intergenerational Transmission 
of Domestic Property, August 1996 

No 56 Blarney, Russell, The Activation of Environmental Norms: An Illustrated Model , 
August 1996 

URU Monographs 

Schreiner, S.R. and C.J. Lloyd, editors. Canberra What Son of City ? Papers of a Conference 
Sponsored by the Urban Research Unit, 29 October 1987. URU Canberra, 1988. 

[Retail price: $7.50]